The keyword when it comes to thinking about wedding cakes is versatility. In the 21st century, the variations and possibilities for wedding cake design and recipes are virtually endless.
Gone is the traditional three tier fruit cake with hard white icing, now a quick online scroll will reveal pages and pages of different beautiful and mouth-watering cake designs, styles with no icing, cakes of different colours, real flower embellishment, even savoury stacks to play to a theme, so where do you start when it comes to making a decision about this all-time favourite sweet wedding treat?
Let us steer you through the complex process of alighting on just the right cake for your special day.
Stay true to the day
Firstly, and most importantly, a wedding cake should reflect you as a couple and fit in with the theme of the day so stick to your guns and hold out for the cake of your dreams even if other people have different ideas. The cake should be size appropriate for the number of guests otherwise there will either be wastage or not enough to go round. It is also useful to set a budget from the outset – even small cakes can be surprisingly expensive if there is a lot of work involved with decoration and large, ornate cakes will almost always attractive a high price tag so if a jaw-dropping cake is a priority for you then make sure it is high up on the list when it comes to spend.
Deciding on design
Scrolling through online images of wedding cakes can be quite overwhelming so the best way to marshal this minefield of sweet and sticky confectionary is to think about the broader concepts before you dive into the detail. Here are some cake styles which can help you narrow down your decision.
Novelty – a novelty cake can be the quirky element to a quirky day and reflect a wedding theme in a subtle way or quite strongly. There are lots of different designs which still maintain a traditional three-tiered style but can make a statement about the bride and groom and a particular passion or shared interest they have, horseshoe scrolling for the equestrian bride, three different-sized tyres with pillars of silver spanners for the motor mechanic husband or a tall lighthouse for the wedding day sailor, the creative possibilities are almost endless
Traditional – there is nothing wrong with going traditional and many brides still choose this option, theming the cake with ribbon to fit in with their wedding colours and adding small embellishments which can be both stylish and understated. A current and popular trend is to create sugar craft flowers to match the blooms in the bridal bouquet. Remember, a traditional wedding cake does not have to be fruit based, you can choose different sponge layers which can all be identically iced to make one universal and blended look. The tradition is to keep the top fruit tier as a christening cake for later on but make sure you remember to tell the venue staff if this is your plan
Naked cakes – right on trend, naked cakes are both romantic and different. There is no fancy icing or ornate decoration and for the bride who is both health conscious and looking for an eco-wedding cake, this is definitely the way to go. Naked wedding cakes work well at vintage style weddings which are very popular at the moment, they are old-fashioned and homely and if you are smart with what you choose, you could also save a lot of money without feeling that you have made a compromise. Some naked cakes can be beautifully decorated with real flower blooms and fruit so they can be both subtle and headline grabbing at the same time but beware, some naked cakes are still pretty expensive – it just depends on who makes them and the type of decoration you choose
Contemporary – a fusion of the traditional three-tier design with a modern twist to create a stylish, more relaxed look which can be uber contemporary or very individualistic to suit a wedding theme. Traditional icing can disguise a range of different cake flavours and types so get liberal with the carrot cake or chocolate sponge, a real surprise for your guests
Miniature wedding cakes – mini wedding cakes are a very modern idea and make a great tower or stack which can be stylishly displayed, and your guests can just help themselves. The options for colour, flavour and design are endless including vegan and gluten free. The tower will need setting up on the day but generally these cakes are easier to transport than large and fragile traditional iced tiers
Once you have made a decision on the type of cake you want, then its time to get down to the nitty gritty of recipe, colours and decoration. Here are some top tips to help you decide.
Start with a cake size that reflects the number of guests
Decide on what you would like the cake to be made from as this can influence the design – modern wedding cakes often still have tiers but these can now be made from almost anything – flavoured sponges are very popular but you could also have carrot cake or a cheesecake
Think about the decoration you would like and whether the cake would support this – soft naked sponge cakes need light decorations whereas substantial ornamentation usually needs a more solid cake as a base
Is sustainability high on your agenda? Can you source local ingredients for your cake and find a local baker?
Do you want to incorporate colour and extend the wedding theme?
Do you have a lot of guests in the party with special dietary requirements? If you are choosing a tiered cake, then you could consider making one of those tiers either vegan or ‘free from’
Think about where the cake is going to go at the reception and how it will be displayed – the practicalities of transporting the cake, setting it up and displaying it are just as important as the cake itself. Fine sugar craft petals may not survive the bumpy journey down that unmade road to the remote castle you have chosen for your wedding reception
Think about temperature and heat – if you are displaying the cake outside then sunlight can be a real issue and even some indoor venues can become incredibly hot – certain types of cake and icing will cope better than others in these conditions
Finding the right baker
Most cake makers will have preferred themes and specialisms so if you know the style of cake you want, make sure your baker can deliver this for you. Ask to see a portfolio of previous cakes and get in touch with their past customers to check them out. Some bakers will arrange a taste test so you can try mini sponges or fruit cake samples and taste test the options before you finally make up your mind.
For the personal touch, you could ask keen bakers in the family to bake a tier each and then have the results professionally iced and decorated. This is a lovely way to combine a really personal cake with a finished look that is just what you want and stylishly produced. It is also a good way to get a nice cake within the budget if most of your spend is going to be on the icing and decorations.
On the day, your wedding photographer will want to know whether you intend to have any traditional cake cutting pictures. Here are some other points to consider:-
Do you want the venue staff to cut the cake and distribute it amongst the guests? If it’s a miniature cake tower then when can the guests help themselves? Make sure you get the photos done first!
Do you want to keep one of the tiers out of tradition as a christening cake for later on?
Is some of the cake to be set aside and kept for or sent to guests who cannot attend
What arrangements will you make for any uneaten cake or unused tiers?
A 21st century wedding cake can be a whole project all on its own or it can be the simplest of designs, the main thing is that it is what you want and reflects the style of the wedding and is true to the happy couple.
Plan ahead – a wedding cake should be one of your first decisions after the venue and the date. Good bakers get booked up months if not years ahead so if you are planning a spring or summer wedding then don’t delay as these dates will go like the proverbial hot cakes for a good cake maker.